In order to achieve our mission, our research efforts are spread across 5 core tasks: 


In addressing these core tasks, we draw on a variety of literatures and methodologies 

Core Task 1:  Experiment

We conduct randomized experiments of literacy reform strategies and interventions that have a solid grounding in research and theory.

Examples of work falling under this core research task include:

Kim, J. S., Guryan, J., White, T. G., Quinn, D. M., Capotosto, L., & Kingston, H. C. (2016). Delayed Effects of a Low-Cost and Large-Scale Summer Reading Intervention on Elementary School Children's Reading Comprehension. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 9 (1), 1-22. Taylor and Francis.  

To improve the reading comprehension outcomes of children in high-poverty schools, policymakers need to identify reading interventions that show promise of effectiveness at scale. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a low-cost and large-scale summer reading intervention that provided comprehension lessons at the end of the school year and stimulated home-based summer reading routines with narrative and informational books. We conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 59 elementary schools, 463 classrooms, and 6,383 second and third graders and examined outcomes on the North Carolina End-of-Grade (EOG) reading comprehension test administered nine months after the intervention, in the children's third- or fourth-grade year. We found that on this delayed outcome, the treatment had a statistically significant impact on children's reading comprehension, improving performance by .04 SD(standard deviation) overall and .05 SD in high-poverty schools. We also found, in estimates from an instrumental variables analysis, that children's participation in home-based summer book reading routines improved reading comprehension. The cost-effectiveness ratio for the intervention compared favorably to existing compensatory education programs that target high-poverty schools.

White, T. G., Kim, J. S., Kingston, H. C., & Foster, L. (2014). Replicating the Effects of a Teacher‐Scaffolded Voluntary Summer Reading Program: The Role of Poverty. Reading Research Quarterly, 49(1), 5-30.  

A randomized trial involving 19 elementary schools (K–5) was conducted to replicate and extend two previous experimental studies of the effects of a voluntary summer reading program that provided (a) books matched to students’ reading levels and interests and (b) teacher scaffolding in the form of end-of-year comprehension lessons. Matched schools were randomly assigned to implement one of two lesson types. Within schools, students were randomly assigned to a control condition or one of two treatment conditions: a basic treatment condition replicating procedures used in the previous studies or an enhanced treatment condition that added teacher calls in the summer. During summer vacation, students in the treatment conditions received two lesson books and eight books matched to their reading level and interests. Overall, there were no significant treatment effects, and treatment effects did not differ across lesson type. However, there was a significant interaction between the treatment conditions and poverty measured at the school level. The effects of the treatments were positive for high-poverty schools (Cohen ’ s d = .08 and .11, respectively), defined as schools where 75–100% of the students were receiving free or reduced-price lunch (FRL). For moderate poverty schools (45–74% FRL ), the effects of the treatments were negative (Cohen ’ s d = −.11 and −.12, respectively). The results underscore the importance of looking at patterns of treatment effects across different contexts, settings, and populations.

Core Task 2: Measure

We measure the effects of school, home, and peer contexts on children's literacy behaviors, motivation, and growth.


Examples of work falling under this core research task include:

Capotosto, L., & Kim, J. S. (2016). Literacy discussions in low-income families: The effect of parent questions on fourth graders’ retellings. First Language, 36(1), 50-70.

This study examines the effects of four types of reading comprehension questions – immediate, non-immediate, summary, and unanswerable questions – that linguistically diverse and predominantly low-income parents asked their fourth graders on children’s text retellings. One-hundred-twenty (N = 120) parent and child dyads participated in a home visit study in which they talked about narrative and informational texts. Moderation analyses indicated that immediate questions and non-immediate questions had a more positive effect on student retellings of an informational text and a narrative text, respectively, for less proficient than more proficient readers. These findings suggest that parents may be able to help their children, particularly less proficient readers, with text memory and text comprehension by asking specific types of questions.

Cooc, N., & Kim, J. S. (2016). Peer influence on children's reading skills: A social network analysis of elementary school classrooms. Journal of Educational Psychology.  

Research has found that peers influence the academic achievement of children. However, the mechanisms through which peers matter remain underexplored. The present study examined the relationship between peers’ reading skills and children’s own reading skills among 4,215 total second- and third-graders in 294 classrooms across 41 schools. One innovation of the study was the use of social network analysis to directly assess who children reported talking to or seeking help from and whether children who identified peers with stronger reading skills experienced higher reading skills. The results indicated that children on average identified peers with stronger reading skills and the positive association between peer reading skills and children’s own reading achievement was strongest for children with lower initial levels of reading skills. The study has implications for how teachers can leverage the advantages of peers via in-class activities.

Kingston, H. C., Kim, J. S., Burkhauser, M. A., Mulimbi, B., Quinn, D. M. (in preparation). Does the quality of children’s oral retellings of narrative and informational texts predict transfer to standardized reading comprehension tests? Veneziano, E. & Nicolopoulou, A. (Eds). Narrative, literacy, and other skills: Studies in intervention. Studies in Narrative [SiN] Series: John Benjamin Press.

This study assesses whether oral retells of a narrative and informational text during the summer following third grade predicted performance on reading comprehension in the fall of fourth grade. To assess comprehension of a narrative and an informational text, 52 teachers called 117 third-grade students over the summer and asked them to provide an oral retelling of two books. All students were participating in a summer literacy intervention called READS for Summer Learning (READS). Content unit analysis was performed for oral retellings of narrative and informational books from the READS lessons. Our results indicate that performance on oral retell tasks predicts performance on measures of reading comprehension. The percentage of total content units recalled from the narrative texts positively predicted fall comprehension scores after controlling for pre-test scores. In addition, the percentage of content units recalled on the narrative text was also a predictor of narrative comprehension sub-test scores, though the percentage of content units recalled on the informational text was not a significant predictor of informational subtest scores. This study lends further empirical evidence of the link between oral retellings and later reading comprehension and extends prior research by examining possible links between both narrative and informational oral discourse skills and reading skills.

Core Task 3: Plan Variation


We test planned variations of promising literacy innovations that are likely to be adopted and sustained by policymakers and practitioners.

Examples of work falling under this core research task include:

Kim, J. S., & White, T. G. (2008). Scaffolding voluntary summer reading for children in grades 3 to 5: An experimental study. Scientific Studies of Reading, 12(1), 1-23.

The effects of a voluntary summer reading intervention with teacher and parent scaffolding were investigated in an experimental study. A total of 24 teachers and 400 children in Grades 3, 4, and 5 were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: control, books only, books with oral reading scaffolding, and books with oral reading and comprehension scaffolding. Books were matched to children's reading levels and interests. Children were pre- and posttested on measures of oral reading fluency (DIBELS) and silent reading ability (Iowa Test of Basic Skills [ITBS]). Results showed that children in the books with oral reading and comprehension scaffolding condition scored significantly higher on the ITBS posttest than children in the control condition. In addition, children in the two scaffolding conditions combined scored higher on the ITBS posttest than children in the control and books only conditions combined. Practical implications for summer voluntary reading interventions are discussed

Core Task 4:  Adapt with Teachers

We partner with teachers to develop and test adaptive literacy strategies for their school and classroom contexts.

Examples of work falling under this core research task include:

Kim, J. S., Burkhauser, M. A., Quinn, D. M., Guryan, J., Kingston, H. C., & Aleman, K. (2017). Effectiveness of structured teacher adaptations to an evidence-based summer literacy program. Reading Research Quarterly. doi: 10.1002/rrq.178

The authors conducted a cluster-randomized trial to examine the effectiveness of structured teacher adaptations to the implementation of an evidence-based summer literacy program that provided students with (a) books matched to their reading level and interests and (b) teacher scaffolding for summer reading in the form of end-of-year comprehension lessons and materials sent to students’ homes in the summer months. In this study, 27 high-poverty elementary schools (75–100% eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch) were matched by prior reading achievement and poverty level and randomly assigned to one of two implementation conditions: a core treatment condition that directly replicated implementation procedures used in previous experiments, or a core treatment with structured teacher adaptations condition. In the adaptations condition, teachers were organized into grade-level teams around a practical improvement goal and given structured opportunities to use their knowledge, experience, and local data to extend or modify program components for their students and local contexts. Students in the adaptations condition performed 0.12 standard deviation higher on a reading comprehension posttest than students in the core treatment. An implementation analysis suggests that fidelity to core program components was high in both conditions and that teachers in the adaptations condition primarily made changes that extended or modified program procedures and activities in acceptable ways. Adaptations primarily served to increase the level of family engagement and student engagement with summer books. These results suggest that structured teacher adaptations may enhance rather than diminish the effectiveness of an evidence-based summer literacy program.

Core Task 5: Development

We undertake R&D projects in order to: (1) synthesize existing research literature; (2) develop literacy interventions (e.g., lesson plans and other curriculum materials); and (3) improve the infrastructure supporting our literacy interventions.

Examples of work falling under this core research task include:

Kim, J. S., & Quinn, D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on low-income children’s literacy achievement from kindergarten to grade 8 a meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 386-431.

This meta-analysis reviewed research on summer reading interventions conducted in the United States and Canada from 1998 to 2011. The synthesis included 41 classroom- and home- based summer reading interventions, involving children from kindergarten to Grade 8. Compared to control group children, children who participated in classroom interventions, involving teacher-directed literacy lessons, or home interventions, involving child-initiated book reading activities, enjoyed significant improvement on multiple reading outcomes. The magnitude of the treatment effect was positive for summer reading interventions that employed research-based reading instruction and included a majority of low-income children. Sensitivity analyses based on within-study comparisons indicated that summer reading interventions had significantly larger benefits for children from low-income backgrounds than for children from a mix of income backgrounds. The findings highlight the potentially positive impact of classroom- and home-based summer reading interventions on the reading comprehension ability of low- income children.

White, T. G., & Kim, J. S. (2008). Teacher and parent scaffolding of voluntary summer reading. The Reading Teacher, 62(2), 116-125.

The authors designed and implemented a voluntary reading program that was intended to reduce loss in reading achievement over the summer months, particularly for low-income and ethnic minority children. The program had two major components: providing eight books that were well matched to each child’s reading level and interests end-of-year lessons and activities for teachers and parents to provide support or scaffolding for children’s summer reading Teacher and parent scaffolding consisted of comprehension strategies instruction and oral reading practice. The results of two experiments demonstrated that the program had positive and educationally meaningful effects on reading achievement. These effects were largest for black and Hispanic children, ranging from 1.7 to 5.1 months of additional learning. Simply giving children books without any form of scaffolding did not have positive effects.